Furloughed federal employees across the region to return to work Tuesday

Hundreds of furloughed federal employees in southeastern Connecticut were expected to return to work Tuesday after Congress and President Trump reached a deal to keep the federal government operating through Feb. 8.

Connecticut’s two Democratic senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, voted against the deal to end the three-day government shutdown that began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, however, voted in favor of a stopgap spending measure.

Murphy and Blumenthal said in a joint statement "this stop-gap three-week patch shortchanges Connecticut's needs and priorities."

"A commitment to have an immigration debate next month is welcome, but we could not in good conscience support a bill that fails to adequately support our national defense, opioid treatment, disaster relief, or community health centers while leaving Dreamers without any certainty about their future," the senators said.

Speaking by phone Monday afternoon, Murphy, noting this would be the fourth continuing resolution to cover the 2018 fiscal year, said he "can't continue to be an enabler of this dysfunction."

"I don't understand how things get any better. At some point, people have to say enough is enough to force negotiators to get something done," he added. 

In a statement, Courtney said he voted yes because the Senate compromise approved Monday modified an earlier House bill by establishing a firm timeline for negotiations on a bipartisan budget.

“Like any compromise, I would have preferred an even shorter continuing resolution with a firm deal on lifting budgetary spending caps. However, the deal hammered out by senators McConnell and Schumer will provide a path forward for resolving this roadblock and other essential issues that have held up the 2018 budget process for an unacceptable length of time," he said.

He said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "will now also be operating under a microscope to deliver on his promise to get the government out of the ‘continuing resolution Groundhog Day,’ and to hold an honest and neutral debate on establishing legal protections for Dreamers. As Senator Dick Durbin, who has been fighting for Dreamers since 2001, noted, this will mark the first time in 5 1/2 years that such a process will take place in the Senate to resolve the Dreamer question." 

“Finally, I believe the country is looking for more compromise, which is not easy to accomplish and at some point, it is necessary to give the negotiators the benefit of the doubt with a very short leash to follow through on their commitments,” added Courtney. 

The government, however, was shut down Monday, locally affecting the Naval Submarine Base, Coast Guard Academy and National Guard. As the temporary funding measure ends Feb. 8, the three military installations could be affected again at that point.  

Impact to the base

About 500 of the 1,300 federal civilian employees who work on base were furloughed Monday.

"We recognize the angst and uncertainty this creates for our civilians, Sailors, and their families.," Capt. Paul Whitescarver, the base's commanding officer, said in a statement posted to the base's Facebook page on Friday. "But even as these difficult times impact base efficiency, morale, and productivity, our Navy New London team, like all U.S citizens, will continue to stand together and support one another. We will continue to focus on our mission and our service to the Nation and the American people."

He noted that safety and security have not been compromised. The Child Development Center was not impacted by the shutdown. As for other base activities, Whitescarver directed people to contact specific commands to determine what was operating during the shutdown.

Coast Guard Academy

Classes at the Coast Guard Academy continued as normal on Monday, but tutoring and other academic support services were discontinued until the government reopened. Of the 261 government-funded civilian employees at the academy, 156 were furloughed. Those retained consisted of faculty and senior staff.

The library on campus was only open for as long as a cadet watch stander could be provided. The museum on the academy's grounds was also closed. Groundskeeping, facilities maintenance, and most administrative support was discontinued or extremely curtailed, according to Lt. j.g. Alexis Davis, a public affairs officer at the academy. She listed other disruptions as: the Child Development Center being closed, reduced athletic training and rehabilitation services for cadet-athletes, delays in administering cadet discipline, disenrollments, and appeals. In addition, all medical processing for admission and recruiting purposes had been stopped by the Department of Defense.

The Connecticut National Guard

The Connecticut National Guard was still performing day-to-day operations on Monday and was available to the state in the event of an emergency or other event requiring the Guard's assistance but in a limited capacity. Furlough notices were issued to about 500 of the Guard's 700 federal technicians, who came in Monday morning to "administratively tie up loose ends" and then left at noon, said Maj. Mike Petersen, spokesman for the Connecticut National Guard.

Over the weekend, about 1,400 Army guardsmen were scheduled to train. Only 450 did, as they were deemed an "excepted activity" given the significant impact on readiness if the training were not done.

"On behalf of the organization, I want to stress how incredibly proud we are of the professionalism and flexibility that our members have shown," Petersen said by phone Monday. "It's not easy to plan for life and drill weekend. A lot of soldiers and airmen go above and beyond to do that."

j.bergman@theday.com

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